iPhone X Wallpaper Updates

iPhone X lock screen showing the Star Trek LCARS wallpaper

If you’re the proud owner of a slick new iPhone X then I have some good news. I’ve updated three of my lock screen wallpapers for the new device and boy do they look great. The iPhone X’s new OLED screen means blacks are truly black resulting in a stunning appearance for lock screen designs like my popular Star Trek LCARS wallpaper. The design also seamlessly blends with the device’s bezel to create a fun Next Generation feel in your hands. The LCARS lock screen even comes in four variants so there’s lots options to try out.

I’ve also updated my Twin Peaks and Pokéwall wallpapers as well so be sure to check them out too. I’ll probably update the others (Westworld & Cosmos) in time but for now these three updates would make great additions to any iPhone X lock or home screen. Enjoy!

Reclaim Your Screen with Unobstruct

Unobstruct app iconRecently I had the pleasure of collaborating on a fun project with my friend and co-worker, Troy Gaul. Troy and I worked closely together to develop Linea and he asked if I could design the app icon for a new type of ad blocker he was developing which eventually became to be called Unobstruct. The concept behind the app is simple – get annoying social media banners that websites overlay on their content out of the way. Screen real estate, especially on mobile devices, is limited and the last thing users need are buttons for Twitter and Facebook cluttering up the view.

From the moment I took up the project I knew I wanted the app’s icon to be both fun and non-flat. Like many iOS developers these days, I’ve had my fill with two-dimensional glyph-type icons that seem to be piled as far as the eye can see in the App Store. I didn’t want to swing the pendulum all the way back to a full skeuomorphism but I didn’t want Unobstruct’s icon to be just another soulless geometric utility that no one would ever remember.

rough idea concepts for Unobstruct sketched in Linea on the iPad

I gathered the gang at the office for a quick brainstorming session and we sketched out a bunch of rough ideas (I have a fondness for the one that looked like a bare-chested Vladimir Putin but alas that was never meant to be). From those quick doodles in Linea, a concept formed of a tough little bot that pushes offending social media bars and banners off the screen. Once I drew his basic forms in Adobe Illustrator, I slowly built up shading and subtle gradients to give him an overall feel of tactility. You can see a similar approach in the xScope Mirror icon, creating subtle dimension through the strategic use of highlights and shadows.

The result is an adorable, tough-as-nails app that will never stop fighting to free up your screen from those annoying floating bars and let you read easier. Check out Troy’s Medium post detailing how he developed the app and what went into making it a reality. Unobstruct is available today in the App Store for .99¢. We hope you’ll give it a try, enjoy!

Twin Peaks Wallpapers for iPhone & iPad

iPhone lock screen showing the Twin Peaks wallpaper

When Twin Peaks premiered in April of 1990, I quickly found myself caught up in the show’s intricate and mysterious plot to discover who killed High School sweetheart, Laura Palmer. The series was groundbreaking and paved the way for many of the “puzzle series” we take for granted today like ‘Lost’, ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Westworld’. Twin Peaks’ writing, directing art direction and music all made it a cult classic that has been called by many one of the greatest TV dramas of all time.

As a die-hard Twin Peaks fan, I’m excited for the premiere of the new Limited Series coming to Showtime which airs on May 21st and will run for a full 18 episodes. Many of the original cast will return to reprise their rolls including Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and several others. To help celebrate Twin Peak’s return to television I took inspiration from some cool artwork created by artist and illustrator Chris Bishop. Chris created a neat Twin Peaks tribute graphic that I instantly knew would make for a great iOS wallpaper. I contacted him and received his permission to remix his original art and came up with something fun that any Twin Peaks fan would be proud to display on their iPhone or iPad.

The wallpaper depicts Special Agent Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer in the mysterious Red Room, along with a few surprises. It comes in two variants – Lock Screen and Home Screen and is ready to download to your favorite iOS device. My thanks to Chris for allowing me to run with his creation and to Mark Frost and David Lynch for bringing one of my all-time favorite TV series back from the dead. I can’t wait to see what the sleepy, mysterious town of Twin Peaks has in store for us this time. Enjoy!

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone SE – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone X – Twin Peaks Lock Screen

• iPhone SE – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone X – Twin Peaks Home Screen

• iPad – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPad – Twin Peaks Home Screen

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Next time you unlock your iPhone you can help Agent Cooper navigate the supernatural labyrinth called Twin Peaks and solve the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer. Be sure to check out my other iPhone wallpapers – Westworld, Star Trek LCARS, Pokéwall and more. Enjoy!

UPDATE: I’ve added 2 new iPhone X variants for use with iOS 11. The device’s tall format of means the wallpaper had to change to accommodate the new design. Enjoy!

The Evolution of Linea

iMore Show artworkLast week, the Iconfactory launched its new simplified sketching app for iPad – Linea. We worked on the app for over a year and used it internally for client projects during its development. The response has been nothing short of amazing. We designed the app to be easy to use and immediately approachable for both advanced artists as well as novice users and that simplified philosophy seems to really have struck a chord with people.

Rene Richie invited me to come on episode 543 of the iMore Show and talk about Linea. We discussed how the app came to be, what went into bringing it to market and how it hopefully stands out in the crowded space of App Store sketch apps. I had a great time with Rene, Serenity Caldwell, Lory Gill and Georgia Dow talking about Linea and getting their insights into why they love sketching with it. As an aside, if you’ve not seen Serenity’s amazing video review of Linea, please do check it out, it’s one of the best product reviews I’ve ever seen.

A big thanks to the entire iMore crew for having me on to talk about Linea. It’s gratifying to see something you’ve worked so long and hard on be so loved by the iOS community. The Linea section of episode 543 starts around the 24 minute mark. Enjoy!

Westworld Wallpapers for iOS

Westworld lock screen wallpaper displayed on an outline iPhone 6'I admit it. I’m addicted to HBO’s new science fiction series – Westworld. Based on the 1973 thriller film written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton, HBO’s re-imagined series transports us to a futuristic theme park where people can live out every desire as part of the old west. Guests to the park can partake in over a hundred narrative storylines to search for lost treasure, hunt down wanted bandits or just visit the local saloons and brothels and have the vacation of a lifetime.

The show stars Oscar winning actor Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Ford, one of Westworld’s creators as well as Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy, a robot who’s entire world is not what she believes it to be. We’re only three episodes in but I’m already addicted to the show, what it all means and where it’s headed. I find the sheer logistics of such an imagined theme park fascinating – it’s like Disney World on mega steroids.

Every part of Westworld from the robot inhabitants, called “hosts”, to the livestock and even the landscape is fabricated all for the pleasure of the guests. It’s like a gigantic MMORPG but in real life, full of twists and turns, mystery and intrigue. It has elements of some of my favorite television shows like Battlestar Galactica and Firefly with a touch of World of Warcraft thrown in for good measure. If you subscribe to HBO, I really recommend you check it out. You can also follow @HBOWestworld for the latest news and sneak peeks about the show.

I love Westworld so much in fact I went ahead and created a set of lock and home screen wallpapers that you can use on your iPhone. I think I captured the spirit of the series with both the nod to the old west as well as its enigmatic future.

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone SE – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Westworld Lock Screen

• iPhone SE – Westworld Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Westworld Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Westworld Home Screen

• iPad – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPad – Westworld Home Screen

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Next time you unlock your iPhone you can imagine you’re about to set out for adventure or whatever else may find you as you roam the vast, entertaining frontier that is HBO’s Westworld. Be sure to check out my other iPhone wallpapers – Star Trek LCARS, Pokéwall and more. Enjoy!

A Sticker By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

Sweet Stickypoo Sticker

So imagine that thing you’ve built your entire professional career on, something you love to create with a burning passion, slowly fades from popularity. Day by day people have less and less use for it, fewer and fewer people write you to make requests. You try to stay the course and keep doing your thing, but doubts inevitably creep in.

Then one day you find you’re just not doing it any more. You’re not really sure what happened but somewhere along the way it just… stopped. It pains you that people no longer love or even really need the thing you’ve honed your craft on for close to twenty years, but what can be done?

You go about your business, applying what you’ve learned to other areas of your discipline. Occasionally a project invites you to play in the fields you once roamed with glee, but they seem few and far between.

Then one day something comes along that turns the old thing you loved to do into something new and exciting. It presents that thing in a whole new, modern way and lets you express your creativity as never before to an entirely new audience. These people are too young to really remember you or where you’ve come from but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you’re standing in the middle of those lush, green fields once again and the sky is literally the limit. It may not last a year, a few months or even a week but for now, for right now, it’s just as fun, just as compelling and fulfilling as it ever was and it is glorious.

Those “things” are simply icons. Desktop icons, specifically.

They are what, since yesterday, we now call stickers in Messages but they’ll always be icons to me. Their introduction in iOS 10 represents a new era for icon artists like myself who once toiled for endless hours to create piles and piles of icons that people could download and use on their computer desktops. We created them because it was fun for us as artists and especially fun for those who collected them.

The advent of the iPhone and mobile era changed all that and desktop icons went out of fashion. People were glued to their tiny screens and didn’t have the time or attention span to customize their desktop folders and hard drives any longer. With the advent of iOS 10 however, people once again have a way to collect and share those tiny, iconic works of art in the form of iMessage stickers. Stickers, perhaps even more than emoji have the capacity to inspire and delight people as never before and I have completely enjoyed creating them during these precious weeks leading up to yesterday’s launch. I’ve been working with my friends at the Iconfactory to bring hundreds of icons stickers to life and it has been a blast. I’ve worked with outside artists as well and watching them create has been joyous.

Stickers may turn out to be another flash in the digital pan and fade quickly into the sunset but that hardly matters. Even if they do, for one brief moment, they allowed me to re-energize, create and dream what might be possible. In short, they have inspired me. As an artist I can truly say this matters more to me than all the tea in China. Thank you, Apple. I owe you one.

Pokéwall Wallpaper for iOS

Pokewall Wallpaper on an iPhone 6

I designed these mobile wallpapers to work specifically with iOS, but there’s nothing that says you can’t use them with Android or Windows phone too. I’m just not going to make a bazillion size variants for all those devices 😛

There’s no denying that the new augmented reality game Pokémon GO from Nintendo and Niantic, Inc. has taken the world by storm. People of all ages are getting their butts up off the couch and heading out into the real world to try and capture as many of these cuddly, courageous animals as they can.

I thought it would be fun to whip up a mobile wallpaper that let’s you turn your smart phone lock screen into a Pokéball, and so Pokéwall was born. Now you can become the envy of all those shiny new friends you’ve made while you explore your community at all hours of the day and night!

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone 5 Series – Original
• iPhone 6 – Original
• iPhone 6 Plus – Original
• iPhone X – Original
• iPad & iPad Pro – Original

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Sleep/lock your iPhone and the next time you activate it, you can pretend you’re about to catch that elusive epic Pokémon you’ve always wanted. I hope you enjoy this fun treat & help spread the word via Twitter and Facebook. Have fun and stay safe!

PS – If you liked Pokéwall, be sure to check out my Star Trek LCARS wallpapers as well.

The Best BitCam Review. Ever.

BitCam review from the app store: WHY? - In 2016, why in the world would I want an app that makes my photos look WORSE? why? WHY?! I downloaded this app just to tell you guys ya crazy for giving it 5 stars. BOOO BOOO BOOOOO. Go HOME. And if you're at home, go stick your head in the ground. 8 bit camera...sheesh, good grief. As long as we're throwing out dumb ideas how about soggy bread, it goes down so much smoother! And what about ants in your pants? Oh yeah sounds like a great idea too; 5 stars for both. Finally, WHYYYYYY?!?

I and everyone at the Iconfactory are grateful so many people have been enjoying our little photographic throwback to the 1990′s with our recent release of BitCam. For those who remember the era it’s a nostalgia trip that brings bittersweet memories of straining modems and ear-piercing dot-matrix printers flooding right back. Millennials are not old enough to understand this however. To many of them, a dot-matrix printer is the tool that was used to print the flower patterns on the out house toilet paper back before there was indoor plumbing and colors hadn’t been invented yet.

Someday about 20 or 30 years from now, ya boy jax may well pine for the days when images were taken on a physical device instead of inside his eyeball. A time when talking with his friends meant tapping on a glass-covered screen to launch an archaic app like Snapchat instead of projecting a hologram of himself from his floaty chair onto whatever the internet eventually becomes. On that glorious day, I will push back in my recliner at the old folks home and smile the smile of kings.

We’re Talking Twitterrific and Accessibility

Twitterrific was recently honored by the folks at AppleVis with an induction into their App Hall of Fame for iOS Accessibly. The folks behind AppleVis invited me to their Extras podcast to talk about the nature of the award, how and why Twitterrific became accessible to VoiceOver users and what Twitterrific users can expect in the future. I had a great time chatting with them on this important subject. The AppleVis Extra podcast #44 is available for streaming online from their website. Enjoy!

Super Tribes for iOS Walkthrough Plus Tips + Tricks

I’ve never actually done a video walkthrough of a mobile game before so this is new territory for me. As such, this review of the fun, turn-based iOS game Super Tribes is a bit longer than it probably should be but I’m still learning so go easy on me! My friend @Bigzaphod turned me onto Super Tribes and I’ve been playing it on and off for about a week. It’s really fun, light and doesn’t suck a huge amount of time which is perfect.

The best part about Super Tribes is that the game length is fixed to 30 individual turns which means a typical game can last anywhere from 20 minutes to about an hour and that’s it. You play against the AI, not other people or friends. Depending on your style of gaming this may be a plus or minus to you, but I personally enjoy it. There’s tons of stuff I didn’t cover in the walkthrough but what I do cover should be enough to get you up and exploring the flat, grid-shaped world of Super Tribes in no time.

The game is free to play in the App Store, but if you do try it and like it, I beg you to purchase at least one of the in-app tribe packs to help support the developer. Games of this quality take thousands of hours to design, produce, test and deploy and we want them to continue making them, they need to eat. That’s all I’m saying. Enjoy!

How Modern Game Engines Are Improving Mobile Gaming

Batman_Arkham_Full

The widening selection of game creation tools available to mobile developers have come a long way in improving players’ experiences when gaming on the go. Game engines are special software frameworks designed to augment the strengths of modern gaming hardware and aid the rapid development and creation of new and exciting titles. Modern game engines contain all the necessary tools for developers to be able to create their kick-ass games more quickly and easier than ever before and the results have been impressive.

Thanks to the advent of smartphones, tablets, phablets and now wearables like Apple Watch, the monetary worth of the gaming industry is enjoying exponential growth. The mobile gaming market alone is predicted to hit $9 billion in 2016. The convenience of playing both casual games like mobile bingo, as well as pulse-pounding, hyper-realistic racing games have all helped the industry set new records. With the continual improvements of next-generation of gaming platforms and quality titles like Splatoon and The Witcher 3 to go with them, gamers are enjoying a bright future packed with high-quality titles from a host of publishers, and powerful engines are driving their success.

The Unreal Engine has long been a favorite among developers and has been responsible for helping to create such popular titles such as Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, Injustice, Borderlands Legends and the Infinity Blade series. To date, the Unreal Engine 3 has been installed on some 2.25 million computers worldwide and comes complete with an integrated Unreal Editor suite which has helped revolutionize the way developers build and develop their mobile game projects.

Plants vs Zombies title screen

For PopCap Games’ popular tower defense game Plants vs Zombies and OMGPop’s rather addictive mobile app Draw Something, the Marmalade SDK helped provide the facility and resources needed to create cross-platform C++ games.

The software development kit gives developers the ability to compile their Xcode and Visual Studio projects for Android or iOS which helps cut development costs while widening their potential audiences at the same time. Marmalade also provides an acceleration tool called Marmalade Quick which provides an even more flexible, open environment for developers to experiment with. This is particularly useful for those companies looking to get their games up, running and monetized more quickly.

Other game engines such as Unity can make 3D development a breeze whilst the Corona SDK helps solves issues of cross-content publishing giving developers more freedom to concentrate on other aspects of their games.

There’s little doubt that the modern state of game engine development now offers something for every type of game developer and this means more and more players are reaping the rewards. From casual to hard-core and everything in-between, these advanced tools in the hands of talented studios can only lead to every-higher quality mobile gaming experiences. What a great time to be a gamer!

Taking Stock of Your Online Subscriptions

picture of woman entering credit card info into her iPad

With the impending launch of Apple Music this week, it dawned on me that I don’t exactly know just how much I’m spending on digital subscription services. Back in the day I had physical newspapers & magazines show up on my doorstep every month so it was relatively easy to keep track of what I had subscribed to. Those bound, blocks of paper acted as reminders of what I was and wasn’t reading. Subscriptions these days can be tricky things; sign up for a Patreon here, add a new online media service there and pretty soon you’ve lost track of just how much you’re shelling out for the convenience of online content.

The new Apple Music service will cost $9.99 a month / $119.88 yearly but I already subscribe to iTunes Match which costs just $24.99 a year. Do I really need both? There are additional benefits that Apple Music offers that go beyond iTunes Match of course, but is it worth it strictly from a cost basis?

Before I can answer that question I really need to know just how much I’m spending month to month on all these things, so I went through and tried to catalog all of my digital subscriptions. Here’s what I found.

• MLB TV $129.99 yearly
• Netflix $8.53 mo / $102.36 yearly
• America’s Test Kitchen Multi-site Membership / $69.96 yearly
• iTunes Match $24.99 yearly
• Patreon $8.00 mo / $96 yearly
• iCloud 20GB Plan .99¢ mo / $11.88 yearly
• Angie’s List Basic $7.99 yearly

So in total, I’m currently paying $347.17 annually in online subscriptions which breaks down to roughly $29 per month. Overall that’s better than I expected, but then again these are only the subscriptions I could track down or remember I was paying. There are probably a few others I haven’t accounted for yet. I wonder if the amount of content I’ve subscribed to is below or above average for today’s consumer?

Are there subscriptions I could cancel to help get the new Apple Music service into my budget? I’m definitely considering ending my America’s Test Kitchen subscription for instance. The two Patreons I subscribe to (Kurzgesagt & Apple World Today) may not be necessary, but they bring me awesome content every month that I enjoy and wish to support. There’s no way I would ever ditch Netflix, it’s one of the best content providers I’ve ever had.

In the end, switching out my iTunes Match subscription for a year of Apple Music would bring my monthly total up to around $37 or $442.06 annually. That’s an increase of roughly 27% of what I’m currently forking over which seems like a lot at first glance. Will Apple Music be worth it? As I don’t currently subscribe to any streaming music services like Spotify or Beats, it’s pretty much impossible to say, at least for now. The good news is Apple is offering that infamous 3-month free trial when it launches on Tuesday so I’m pretty sure I’ll be taking advantage of that to evaluate the service.

If you’re cost conscious or on a budget and have not taken stock of your online subscriptions recently, now might be a good time to do so. Knowing just how much you’re spending each month can really be an eye-opener that will help you make informed for future subscriptions. At the very least, this exercise has taught me to categorize all of my online subscriptions similarly in Mint so I can easily review what I’ve subscribed to. Lastly, the folks over at iMore have also put together a fantastic guide to Apple Music that answers every question you could possibly have. Hopefully this all helps you as much as it helped me!

Apple, Take Me Away!

LoyaltyTagsRight before the annual developer pilgrimage to Moscone Center, the interwebs become flush with wish lists for Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference and this year is no different. I can’t quibble with my peer’s desires for Apple to focus on fixing bugs and increasing stability rather than adding new and shiny features, but there is one tiny area I’m secretly hoping will play a major role in iOS 9 – Apple Pay Loyalty Programs.

Without a doubt, Apple Pay has been one of the best advancements out of Cupertino in the last 10 years. It makes paying for goods and services generally quicker, far more secure and reduces the amount of “stuff” I need to carry around in my pockets. When it was announced, Apple hinted at upcoming upgrades that would allow retailers to offer loyalty programs and incentives if people used Apple Pay at their retail locations. That was then, and this is now.

Although Tim Cook’s Apple Pay has made impressive in-roads in the space, many retailers have remained skeptical and have refused to join in the secure fun either because they are lazy, cost conscious or can’t get access to the kinds of information that Apple won’t make available via Apple Pay – customer data. Retailers currently have no way to say to Apple Pay customers “If you buy from us, we’ll give you loyalty points you can use for a future discount!” and that’s a problem. As a consumer, I desperately want to reward businesses that make my financial transactions more secure and I want them to recognize my choice by giving me the kinds of incentives I’ve come to enjoy over the years.

Like me, you probably carry around loyalty cards on your keyring or wallet that the cashier swipes when you check out at the grocery store. I hate these things desperately, they need to die a violent death. I absolutely love paying for my lunch via Apple Pay at Panera Bread, but I wince when I have to reach for my wallet to hand the cashier my Panera card just so I can get credit towards next month’s free cookie. It makes no sense.

If there’s any single thing on my wish list for this year’s WWDC, it would be for Apple to give me the ability to never have to carry loyalty/reward cards around ever again. With Apple Pay, Cupertino has made good on its original Passbook promise – A safe, secure and digital wallet without the physical wallet. I’m really hoping that they’ve found a way to integrate loyalty programs into Apple Pay for iOS 9. Doing so is good for the consumer, for businesses and ultimately the economy as paying for stuff electronically gets easier and more secure. Now if I could just get rid of my car’s key fob. Maybe one day.

UPDATE: BINGO! At today’s WWDC keynote address Apple unveiled that they will be adding merchant rewards cards to Apple Pay with iOS 9. Yes Virginia, sometimes dreams do come true!

User Interfaces of the Week

picard_firstcontact

We’re less than a week away from Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference where Tim Cook and company will unveil the latest and greatest for OS X, Apple Watch and iOS. No doubt we’ll get a preview of iOS 9 and all it has to offer, but before we move forward, sometimes it’s best to reflect on where we’ve come from. I wish I could say the user interfaces featured here were but a distant App Store memory, but alas they all come from currently-shipping apps.

A few weeks ago I went looking for a well designed gas / milage tracking app in the App Store. I’ve been using Gas Cubby for years, but wanted something new to help me keep track of MPG with my new Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. From my own experience, I knew that doing a general search in the App Store tends to yield less than optimum results. Even so, I just wasn’t prepared for the sloppy approach many of these apps tried to pass off as user interface design.

Being a UI designer myself, I have surrounded myself in my professional and digital life with talented designers and developers who consistently release top-notch apps. The problem with living in a bubble of roses is you sometimes forget what the real world smells like. As I paged through dozens of these milage trackers I was reminded just how many apps on the store are basically junk. Over at Daring Fireball, John Gruber has a recurring piece he calls “User interface of the Week” where he highlights some of the worst cases of user interface “design” he’s encountered. I don’t feel right calling these apps out by name, but if any apps deserved John’s moniker, these sure do.

Seeing what often passes for acceptable design in the App Store often reminds me of all the hard work that goes into creating my own well designed and executed apps. So many people think software just grows on trees, but it doesn’t. Designing and building best-in-class software requires a depth of knowledge and experience that a relative few possess.

I can’t wait to see what WWDC has in store for the future of my favorite software platforms. I’m hoping Apple inspires an entire new group of developers to strive for excellence and bring users apps that are truly worthy of these wonderful, futuristic devices. As for my milage tracker quest, I finally settled on Road Trip. It’s a bit more complex than I would like, but so far, so good.

You Will Adapt Your User Interfaces to Service Us!

picard_firstcontact

Everywhere you look, more and more people feel they are entitled to something they’re not. I and others have written about the obscene level of entitlement some users feel is owed them when they download apps from the App Store, and to be sure this is still a huge problem today. Lately however, I’ve been observing another form of app entitlement and honestly, it has got to stop – iPhone 6 Plus users who think all interfaces should be designed to both fit their jumbo phones AND still allow one-handed use.

When Apple introduced the iPhone 6 Plus and it’s enormous 5.5″ screen, it clearly filled a much-needed gap in the iOS universe. Users had been clamoring for more screen real estate for years and when it finally arrived, they rejoiced. Over time however, these users have developed a sense of entitlement that the apps they run should place all controls at or near the bottom of the screen where they can be reached by the thumb. Sorry, but like Captain Picard in First Contact, I’m drawing a line in the proverbial sand. No, iPhone 6 Plus users don’t get to dictate interface design for the rest of us.

Like it or not, buttons at the top of the screen are not going away any time soon. Developers need every bit of screen real estate to logically lay out controls consistently across a host of device ranges and configurations. From the tiny iPhone 4 to the popular iPhone 6 and the iPad there’s a method to our madness. It might seem like a great idea if every single button, tab, actionable element and control were within thumb’s reach, but that simply isn’t possible, nor is it actually desirable.

When Apple developed iOS, the experts charged with designing its interface laid out regions of the iOS screen for specific interactions. Since the entire navigation stack generally flows from left (where you were) to right (where you are going), the button for closing or going back a level is at the upper left. Creation of new content or taking action on that content, like adding a calendar event or sending an email or a tweet, is usually found at the upper right. Tab controls can be either at the top or the bottom, though generally they are usually found at the bottom. In this way, a user who picks up an iPhone 4 has a reasonable expectation that similar types of controls will appear in similar places when she picks up an iPhone 6 Plus. This helps maintain usability and UI consistency for all apps, not just those that run on jumbo phones.

screencontrols

There are ways that developers can help facilitate one-handed use when it’s appropriate. The swipe to go back gesture is a great innovation Apple introduced back in iOS 7 and is a thumb-saver on larger phones. Many apps no longer require you to reach up and tap “Back” to go back, you can simply swipe from the left edge of the screen to navigate back one level. Apple also implemented Reachability (double tap the Home button to lower the entire screen temporarily) to help reach interface elements at or near the top of the screen. But for some users, these gestures are simply not enough. The thing they forget is that by opting for a large device they gained a huge, highly readable screen but they also sacrificed some level of UI convenience. iPad users have been dealing with this trade-off for years, that’s the nature of the beast, like it or not.

When I first heard about the rumored existence of the iPhone 6 Plus and its huge screen, I wondered how Apple would reconcile its long-held tenet that one-handed use reigned supreme with that of it’s upcoming larger device. Apple even built an entire marketing campaign around the advantages of smaller iPhones vs their larger Android counterparts. But when the Plus was released, Apple quickly abandoned that philosophy in order to sell millions of 6 and 6 Plus’. Funny how that happened.

The problem with these users is that they often think like the Borg – they want the best of both worlds – larger screens and an interface that lets them use every app one-handed. As someone who designs for the screen, I’m here to tell them that until humans evolve longer thumbs that simply isn’t possible. At some point (iOS 10?) Apple may come up with a completely new interface paradigm for iOS, but in the meantime it’s best if they start dealing with reality. Whether it’s assimilating Starfleet personnel or playing with your apps, sometimes you just need to use two hands.

Star Trek: Next Gen Wallpapers for iPad

iPad_LCARS_Hero

A few months ago I released several iPhone wallpapers that Star Trek fans have really been enjoying. The response to these LCARS-style graphics was tremendous and almost immediately I started receiving requests for iPad versions of them. The problem was there’s no way to design a square LCARS wallpaper that works both in portrait and landscape mode on the iPad. All of the major elements on-screen (the time, date, slide to unlock & camera icon) are positioned differently when you rotate your device.

A big part of the charm of the iPhone LCARS wallpapers is that the iOS elements flow right into the design and become part of it, but this just isn’t possible to do with a single image for iPad. The solution was to not even try and to design separate wallpapers that can be used in either landscape or portrait, not both. The result is the landscape Next Gen iPad versions I’ve created here. I may create portrait versions at some point, but the majority of iPad owners use the device in landscape mode primarily so that’s what I went with.

I’ve been a huge fan of Star Trek Production Designer, Michael Okuda since day one and like the iPhone versions, this project is my ongoing way of saying “Thank you!” for the wonderful, futuristic operating system that Next Gen fans know and love as LCARS. With these new iPad versions, you can definitely feel like you’re using a real Next Gen PADD when you unlock your tablet, it’s super fun!

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS 8:

1) Click to view the version of the iPad wallpaper you like best:

• iPad landscape – Original / TNG Colors
• iPad Pro landscape – Original / TNG Colors
• iPad landscape (Starship Schematic) – Original / TNG Colors
• iPad Pro landscape (Starship Schematic) – Original / TNG Colors

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) In the Share menu tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Position the image so the Lock Screen’s date line is centered inside the thinner, red upper bar

8) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Sleep/lock your iPad and the next time you activate it, you can pretend you’re Captain Picard himself receiving an important message from Starfeet Command. I hope you enjoy this fun treat & help spread the word via Twitter and Facebook.

Be sure to visit my Goodies page to download other fun desktop wallpapers for iPhone, iPad & Mac. Engage and enjoy!

UPDATE: Added new sizes of both variants of the LCARS lock screen for the new iPad Pro.

How Broken is Discovery on the App Store? This Broken.

Much has been made over the years about how the App Store could be improved for both developers and customers. Areas like interactive reviews, trial periods, an App Store VP and paid upgrades are all important. One of the key areas many agree is the biggest problem Apple has yet to correctly address is discovery. For small developers like myself, a potential customer’s ability to find your app on the App Store is critical. If customers can’t easily discover and download your software, your app (and indeed your business) has little chance of survival.

The App Store now has over 1.2 million apps available to consumers and with such a wide range of products, it’s more important than ever people are able to quickly find and what they are looking for. Developers have known for years that searching for something in particular doesn’t always yield the results you’d expect, but often it’s downright ridiculous.

Take Twitterrific, the 3rd party Twitter client that my company, The Iconfactory, created back in 2007 and released on the App Store in 2008. Twitterrific was there at the launch of the App Store and the latest iteration, version 5, is available even today, seven years later. Despite many 3rd party Twitter apps going the way of the dodo, Twitterrific, Tweetbot and a few other hearty Twitter clients have survived and sometimes even thrived. This despite Apple’s search results, which bear little resemblance to what a typical user might expect when searching for a simple, straightforward term like “Twitter” on the App Store.

The following list was generated by a manual App Store (iPhone) search on Nov 15th, 2014 for the term “Twitter”. To make the list easier to parse, I’ve called out all apps that allow a user to directly read AND post to Twitter in bold. Everything else is either a game, a utility, or some other social network enhancement. The official app from Twitter is naturally the first result, but the next actual Twitter client (Hootsuite) doesn’t appear on the list until #20 and the next one after that comes in at #62. Even the mega-popular Tweetbot isn’t returned in the results until position #81 and even then, the older v2 of Tweetbot (for iOS 6) comes first. Where’s Twitterrific? Although it contains the word “Twitter” in the app’s name, Twitterrific isn’t seen in the list until you scroll all the way down to #100.

1. Twitter
2. Instagram
3. Framatic
4. Tweegrow
5. Pick Jointer
6. Happy Park
7. Crop Pic
8. Wayze Social GPS
9. Flipboard
10. InstaCollage Pro
11. Symbol Keyboard
12. Find Unfollowers
13. Cool Fonts
14. Symbolizer
15. Big Emoji
16. Get Followers
17. Framatic Mess
18. Alarm Clock HD
19. Textgram
20. Hootsuite
21. Emoticon Art
22. Textizer Fonts
23. 4 For Follow
24. Pixable
25. Just Unfollow
26. Unfollow for Twitter
27. ColorEffects
28. Photobooth
29. G-Whizz
30. New Cool Text
31. Google+
32. Step
33. Tweetcaster for Twitter
34. Vine
35. Camera Awesome
36. InstaEffect Effects
37. Emoticons and Emoji
38. TwitBoost Pro
39. PickGram
40. Insta Scrapbook
41. SpaceEffect
42. Orbs
43. MB2:YouTube
44. Facetouch HD Light
45. Paper Toss Friends
46. Vodio
47. Frame UR Life
48. HayWire Text Free
49. Nimble Quest
50. InstaCollage Pro
51. TweetBoost Pro
52. Right Behind
53. Emoji>
54. Follow Tool for Twitter
55. Color Cap
56. Emoji for iOS 8
57. Camera+
58. Emoji Emoticons
59. Text2Pic
60. Emoji 2 Emoticons
61. Fonts-Cool Font Maker
62. Echofon Pro
63. LiPix Pro
64. Alarm Clock HD
65. Smilebox Moments
66. Everypost for Social Media
67. Google Apps Browser Plus
68. Clipchat
69. VPN Express
70. ÜberSocial for Twitter
71. You Doodle
72. TweetBot 2 (iOS 6)
73. Stocks Live
74. Stocks Live Essentials
75. GameFly
76. Trendyful
77. Oz Quake
78. Buffer for Social Media
79. Yahoo! News Digest
80. Wefollow for Twitter
81. TweetBot 3
82. Photo Notes HD
83. Emoji Art and Text
84. Find Unfollowers Pro
85. Followers for Twitter
86. Follower Boost for Twitter
87. Color Effects FX HD
88. Double Ball
89. TwitGrow for Twitter
90. Twittelator Pro (iOS 6)
91. Emoji Art
92. TwitBoost Pro for Twitter
93. Jedi Lightsaber
94. Get Followers for Instagram
95. Aqua Emoji Keyboard
96. Bloomberg
97. Emoji for Messaging
98. Facely HD for Facebook
99. Timehop
100. Twitterriffic 5
101. IFTTT
102. FollowBoost for Twitter
103. Hyperlapse for Instagram
104. Freebie
105. PhotoFrame
106. Text Pics Free
107. Funimate
108. Followers + for Twitter
109. Emoji Keypad
110. Follower Plus
111. TweetBoost
112. Wow Followers for Twitter
113. Table Top Racing
114. TwitBird Free for Twitter
115. Singing Texts
116. Dice World 6 Free
117. Cool Frames and Picture Effects
118. Bamboo Wallet
119. JustFollow for Instagram
120. Twitter Check
121. TurboBoost for Vine
122. PhillyD Official
123. Hybrid Fonts
124. Mixgram
125. Color Zen
126. Keyboard Pro
127. Symbol Keyboard
128. Tweetlogix for Twitter

148. Echofon for Twitter

167. TweetList (iOS 6)

Every app in bold on this list should precede every other app (save the official client) in the results. This is especially true of apps that are not optimized for iOS 8, yet some apps built for iOS 6 (not iOS 7, 6!) come first. Why? Why games appear on this list at all is a mystery, they are by far the least relevant and don’t even get me started on #18 “Alarm Clock HD” and #93 “Jedi Lightsaber” (really?). Twitter’s own Vine app doesn’t appear here until #34 and some would argue it should be result #2, and rightfully so. It’s obvious that Apple’s search algorithm needs adjusting so it’s weighted not towards downloads or popularity, but relevance.

Finding apps for a small niche category like Twitter clients is relatively easy. Imagine how hard it must be to find a particular game in the vast wilderness that is the App Store if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Until Apple decides to take definitive steps to improve search results, either via human curation, or by lowering dependencies on popularity, easy discovery in the store will continue to be a major problem. Unfortunately for small developers who need paying customers to survive, time is quickly running out.

***

PS – One thing I learned while compiling this post is that there are a lot of apps that purport to help you boost your follower count on Twitter. Like tons. That and emoji apps. Who doesn’t like emoji though? 🙂

PPS – One of the ways developers let Apple know that something is broken is by filing Radar reports for a given bug or improvement. Lots of developers have filed radars for the App Store’s irrelevant search results including Radar #18265234 from Simon Booth. In his report, Simon describes just how badly a search related to his music app Smilophone returns results. If you’re an Apple dev, dupe his radar, hopefully it will do some good.

You Just Lost A Customer

News today that some businesses have begun disabling the NFC readers in their retail locations so as block customers from using Apple Pay. When I read this, I have to say it filled me with rage. I don’t yet own an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, but I will soon and one of the reasons why I’ve been looking forward to owning one is the secure, easy transactions that Apple Pay represents. Now we learn that a group of merchants wants to introduce their own payment processing system, one that favors the merchants by eliminating credit card fees, but is most likely far less secure, and most certainly more difficult or confusing to use.

If you’re an iPhone owner who’s as upset as I am, I’ve designed this helpful flyer that you can print a stack of and hand to the clerk at CVS, Rite Aid or anywhere else that refuses to accept Apple Pay. Simply put, you’re telling them that you’re going to take your business elsewhere until they come to their senses and accept your money via Apple Pay. Why any business owner would actually refuse a customer’s money in this economy is bewildering to say the least, but we need to let the corporate owners know we have choices and we chose not to give them our money.

Download the PDF version. If you want, sign your name at the bottom and then see they get into the hands of businesses in your area that insist on doing what’s better for them, instead of what’s best for the consumer.

You can also contact CVS and Rite Aid electronically and tell them that they need to support Apple Pay or risk alienating millions of iPhone users. The more our voices are heard, the harder it will be for them to ignore us.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Ollie!

While preparing for the onslaught of technical support that accompanies new releases of our most popular app – Twitterrific, I was curious about just how many updates we’ve actually released over the years. I looked back through the app’s version history as well as a fun timeline of Iconfactory software releases I created a few years ago to find this week’s 5.8 update is the app’s 50th since its launch in the summer of 2008.

If you had told me back then that we would still be coding and improving the little blue bird that could almost seven years later, I probably would never have believed you. Back then Twitterrific 1.0 was a fun, but unproven app for the then newly released iPhone from Apple. It was released along with the launch of the brand new App Store where users could browse hundreds (yes hundreds) of apps for their shiny new phones. At that time there was no official Twitter mobile client, I’m not even sure there were ANY other Twitter apps in the store at launch*.

Fast forward to 2014 and 50 updates later and we arrive at v5.8 for iOS 8. Given the rocky history 3rd party developers and Twitter have gone through the last few years, I’m honestly surprised we’re still here today. Over the years Twitter has focused more and more on controlling their own user experience and branding. This meant imposing design and interaction guidelines on 3rd party devs like the Iconfactory as well as capping the number of total users who can actually own Twitterrific. Thankfully, since Twitterrific was there at the very beginning, our token pool (at least on iOS) is quite large and we can afford to continue developing the app as long as it makes money. The same can’t be said for so many other smaller 3rd party Twitter developers who have either given up or sold their apps to other larger developers. One of the reasons why the Mac version of Twitterrific still hasn’t been updated is due to the limited number of user tokens available to us on the Mac platform, a policy I sincerely hope Twitter re-examines one day.

When I think of all the hard work, hand-wringing and ultimately, satisfied customers, Twitterrific has gone through over the years it really boggles my mind. Knowing that so many people use and love something you’ve created day after day is a wonderful feeling. You keep downloading and sending us positive feedback, and that motivates us to refine and improve the app. Twitterrific would never have flown as far and wide as it has if it wasn’t for all of our loyal customers, and for that we are truly thankful. If you’ve not tried Twitterrific in a while, I invite you to check it out. Everything old is new once again!

* There was at least one other 3rd party Twitter app in the store at launch – Twinkle.